I have previously disagreed with the overextended and unsupported claims of critics on allegedly clear criminal violations by President Donald Trump, including past statements by Richard Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush and is a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. I am no fan of President Trump and have repeatedly criticized him for his language and actions in office. However, legal analysis continues to erode as analysts assure viewers that well-established crimes have been committed. The latest such example by Painter is that Trump continues to fundraise for Senators, a common practice of all presidents in election years. Painter insists that any such fundraising can constitute “felony bribery” since these senators will likely sit in judgment in any impeachment trial.
Painter declared “This is a bribe. Any other American who offered cash to the jury before a trial would go to prison for felony bribery. But he can get away with it?”
I like Painter personally and respect his past public service. However, this position is utterly meritless. Just because a president may face a Senate trial, he is not required to stop political activities. Indeed, if that were the case, an opposing party in control of the House could shutdown the political activities of a president by moving to impeach him. Moreover, Painter’s unlimited view of the bribery statute would also prevent campaign activities deemed supportive of members of either house. That view would not only extend bribery definitions beyond recognition but it would contravene core protections for free speech and associations.
The unquestioning attention given to Painter’s extreme view shows how detached coverage has become from reality. There are serious questions raised in the Ukraine controversy. It deserves serious analysis.